Just a quick reminder: today is the last day of June, and so also the last day of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge! The Creston Museum is participating, and every dollar donated in the month of June is another chance to help us win $20,000! Read more on that here, and if you have been considering making a donation, now’s the time to do it!
In the meantime…
Here’s a story about a pretty special fundraiser held in Creston in 1938.
A lot of local medical history seems to have happened in the month of December. For example, Creston’s first hospital got its charter as a public hospital in December 1930, and its founder, Dr. Joseph Olivier, died in December 1943. A new 30-bed hospital was opened in December 1953. X-ray staff at the present-day Creston Valley Hospital moved into their new department in December 1970.
And, on 31 December 1938, the annual Hospital Benefit Fund hosted an event that was hailed as “the greatest sporting attraction 1938 could offer.”
By 1938, Creston was on its second hospital. Dr. Olivier’s facility, the one that had been established in 1930, only had eleven beds. While the local population was very glad to finally have a hospital in town, it was clear right from the outset that eleven beds was simply not enough. So, in 1933, the second hospital was built, this one boasting twenty-two beds.
Today, provincial governments are pretty much entirely responsible for building and operating hospitals, but that wasn’t always the case. Those first two hospitals, and indeed the one that came in 1953, were built through local donations and fundraising. There were some government dollars available for construction and equipment, and government covered part of the costs of operating them, but the rest came from fees charged to patients and other contributions from the community. Given the economic conditions of the 1930s, and judging from annual reports for the Hospital Auxiliary, there were quite a few patients who could not pay their hospital bills – so those community donations became even more important.
Enter the annual Hospital Benefit Fund.
The Hospital Benefit Fund existed solely to raise funds to support the hospital’s operations. The money went towards medical equipment, wages for the nursing staff, and doctors’ fees. It also helped cover the costs of food for the patients, to supplement the local donations of fruits, vegetables, and other farm products.
Like any fundraising organisation in the community today, the Hospital Benefit Fund must have struggled to come up with creative ways to raise money. They weren’t planning an event merely for the sake of having an event; they were under considerable pressure to plan an event that would generate the cash needed to keep the hospital open. In 1938, that unique and creative event was a basketball game, between a carefully-chosen team of top local players (the Creston Reps – and the Harlem Globetrotters.
I don’t mean the Harlem Clowns or the Harlem Wizards or any of the other basketball teams that have imitated the Globetrotters over the years. I mean the one-and-only, original-and-best, genuine-article Harlem Globetrotters.
By 1938, the Globetrotters had been in existence for eleven seasons, and, although they had gained quite a bit of popularity – and an impressive record of 1,456 wins out of 1,583 games played – they were not yet the world-famous, big-name act they are today. In 1938, they were a group of highly-talented African-American basketball players from Chicago who toured towns of all sizes all across North America to make a living. As the Creston Review declared when promoting the game, “This colored basketball team has travelled many miles during the past season. From all reports they present a fine floor show and all they ask is that the home teams give them good opposition so that they may run through their comic acts.”
The Review concluded by hoping “that as many persons as possible [will] attend this game as the proceeds from this event will be turned over to a worthy cause.”
It appears that everyone’s hopes were fulfilled. The Review reported a capacity house and “an exhibition of ball-handling that was nothing short of miraculous.” The evening opened with “a close and hard-fought game” between the Creston Motors team and the Valley Girls All-Star team, which the Girls won 15-14. Then the Trotters took to the floor against the Valley Rep team players, who “gave everything they had to give the Harlemites opposition.” In fact, in the fourth quarter, the entire Creston team – all fifteen players – came out onto the floor against the five players from Chicago.
The Globetrotters won decisively, 46-22, but that didn’t seem to matter. In fact, the Review didn’t even really announce the score; it simply stated the names of the players and the number of points each had scored.
Ironically, among all the details about players and scores and referees and thank-you speeches and the intermission entertainment by the Canadian Legion band, the one thing the Review does not tell us is: how much money was actually raised for the Hospital Benefit Fund.